Asian Dishes, Malay, Salads and Vegetables, Singapore

Nasi Jenganan (Rice with Vegetables and Peanut Sauce)

I love nasi jenganan. It’s a dish which originated in Indonesia but much loved by the Malays here. Nasi means rice but I have no idea what jenganan means. Let me google this later. Is it a person’s name? The name of a place? When I was younger, I remember mispronouncing it as ‘jeng-ga-nan’

My late Papa used to love this dish so much. What is there not to like? Well, I guess if you loathe vegetables then this is not your cup of tea. However, what makes this rice dish so utterly addictive and unctuous is the rich fragrant peanut sauce.

All this time, I have been buying store bought jenganan sauce. It comes in packets and all you have to do is mix it with warm or hot water, and voila! You peanut sauce is ready. But this time, I thought it’s about time I learn to make this peanut sauce myself.

It starts off simple enough. Dry fry 300g of groundnuts till it’s completely toasted. Then grind them to a fine but not too fine texture. Like sand. Soft coarse sand.

And then in the same pan, dry fry about 8-10 dried chillies and 2-3 cloves of garlic in a little bit of oil. The chillies should be crisp and completely fried and hardened. The garlic cloves, browned.

And then in a blender, place the dried chillies and garlic in. Pour about half of the ground peanuts in and then some water, palm sugar, 1/2 a tablespoon of tamarind paste and salt to taste. Blend till all combined. Taste to adjust seasoning. Do you need more sugar? More tamarind paste? The taste should be slightly tangy, spicy and sweet. If you have cekur, or sand ginger, you should blend that in as well, but alas I didn’t have any. The sand ginger is what elevates this sauce from a simple peanut sauce to an AWESOME one. Unfortunately, I did not have any and in my area, there’re no shops selling this. Once you’re happy with the taste, put all the remaining groundnuts in and blend again to combine. Alternatively, you can just place the blended ones in a large bowl and stir the remaining ground peanuts in. If it’s too thick, adjust with a little bit of water at a time till you get a smooth consistency.

This peanut sauce is awesome but what makes this dish nasi jenganan is the accompaniments. You need a variety of vegetables, and in this region, cheap and delicious ones that go with this dish include kang kong, cabbage, long beans, bean sprouts. These four vegetables need to be blanched quickly in boiling water. And then since this is essentially a cheap dish, the proteins include fried tofu and fried tempe. Hey, this is the Malay version of a complete vegetarian and vegan dish!

First step: dry roast the groundnuts
Put them in a chopper and grind away.
The texture of coarse sand.
Fry dried chillies and garlic in some oil.
In a tall blender, add the chillies, garlic, peanuts, palm sugar, salt, sugar, tamarind paste, water. If you can get your hands on some sand ginger, add those in!
Blend away till well combined. Add the remaining ground peanuts and blend all again.
And you should come to this.
Serve with white rice, an assortment of boiled vegetables and fried tofu and tempe. This makes for a wonderful healthy lunch. And completely vegan too!

I can understand why my late father loved this dish. When he was alive, he would get very excited and happy when my mother cooked this dish. And she would make sure at least once a month, this would be on the menu. It actually pairs well with fish singgang, quite similar to the Filipino fish sinigang. Can you imagine eating this rich peanuty rice dish, crunchy vegetables and then sipping on some sourish fish soup together?

I’m glad I finally have learnt how to make this myself and that since this blog really is meant for my children to learn how to cook the dishes I grew up with, one day when I am gone and they are interested to read this blog, they will learn too how to make it themselves, or at least learn what their mother used to eat and like.

I am very sure whichever part of the world you’re in, these are easily available ingredients (except for the sand ginger, which I myself can’t get here!) and that making this peanut sauce the authentic way instead of using peanut butter will be more fulfilling.

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